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Misremembering Weimar: Hyperinflation, the Great Depression, and German collective economic memory

Lukas Haffert, Nils Redeker and Tobias Rommel

Economics and Politics, 2021, vol. 33, issue 3, 664-686

Abstract: The well‐known German aversion to inflation has attracted a lot of interest and is often attributed to a specific historical memory: Weimar. Yet we do not know much about why hyperinflation seems to overshadow the Great Depression in German collective economic memory. To answer this question, we study what exactly it is that Germans believe to remember about their past. Using original survey data, we show that many Germans do not distinguish between hyperinflation and the Great Depression, but see them as two dimensions of the same crisis. They conflate Weimar economic history into one big crisis, encompassing both rapidly rising prices and mass unemployment. Additionally, more educated and politically interested Germans are more likely to commit this fallacy. Our finding thus nuances ideational explanations for Germany's economic policy stance in the European Union.

Date: 2021
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